Follow-up care after completing cancer treatment is very important. Your healthcare team will help you manage long term side effects and watch for any changes such as the cancer spreading or coming back.
Your healthcare team or nurse navigator may give you a survivorship care plan with guidelines to follow. Not all patients will automatically receive a care plan. If you are not given a care plan, you can create one using Journey Forward or the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Survivorship Care Planning Tools.
Here are some things to remember about follow-up care:
- Always go to your follow-up appointments.
- Your healthcare team will recommend an appropriate follow-up schedule for you based on your diagnosis and treatment.
- After some time goes by without a recurrence, your healthcare team may recommend less frequent follow-up appointments and screenings.
- Follow your recommended screening schedule.
- Your screening scheduled will depend on the type and stage of your diagnosis and other aspects of your medical history.
- Your schedule may include imaging scans such as a CT scan, PET scan, or MRI to check for recurrence or spread of solid tumors.
- At most appointments, your oncologist will also do blood tests. Your oncologist uses these blood tests to check for tumor markers, protein levels, blood cell counts, and general health.
- Make sure your primary care physician (PCP) knows the details of your cancer treatment and survivorship care plan.
- Even if your PCP made the original cancer diagnosis, an oncologist likely oversaw your care during cancer treatment.
- After cancer treatment, you may transition back to your PCP as your primary provider, and it is important he or she knows all your medical history.
- If you change medical providers, make sure your new doctor has all your medical records and history.
- Tell your doctor about any new or continued side effects.
- Some side effects occur after treatment ends. Let you healthcare team know of any and all changes so they can help you manage them effectively.
- Ask your doctor what late-term side effects you may experience so you can be prepared.
- Follow all other cancer screening recommendations for your age, gender, and medical history.
- Having a history of cancer increases your risk of a second cancer diagnosis.
- Examples of common cancer screenings include colonoscopy, mammograms, pap smears, and prostate exams.
- As a cancer survivor you may need to be screened more frequently or beginning at an earlier age.
- Talk to your healthcare team about the cancer screenings appropriate for you.
- Keep your health insurance if at all possible.
- Follow-up care, especially imaging, can be very expensive if you do not have health insurance.
- You will also want remain insured in case you need additional treatment in the future.